Things That Matter

An Actual Essential Worker With Insurance Was Charged $1,840 For Coronavirus Testing

No doubt, essential workers are heroes and should be treated as such.

As an essential worker, Carmen Quintero (a supervisor at a 3M distribution warehouse which ships N95 masks across the country) is a hero. Despite the current crisis plaguing countries across the globe including the one she lives in, she shows up to work and gets her job done knowing what’s at stake.

And yet, despite her hard work and bravery, she’s being treated like a third-class citizen.

On March 23 Quintero displayed symptoms of Covid-19.

A human resources staff member at her company informed Quintero she would have to go home and get tested.

“They told me I couldn’t come back until I was tested,” explained to People magazine before also sharing that she was also told that she would need to document her results. After contacting her primary care doctor, Quintero was directed to the nearest emergency room for testing. At the time her primary care doctor’s practice did not have coronavirus tests.

At the Corona Regional Medical Center, Quintero received testing from a nurse for her breathing and gave her a chest X-ray. Unfortunately, the hospital also did not have tests and she was directed by the nurse to go to Riverside County’s public health department. At Riverside, a public health worker provided her with an 800 number so that she could schedule a test.

Over two weeks later, on April 7 the county was able to provide her with the test.

“At the hospital, Quintero got a doctor’s note saying she should stay home from work for a week,” People reports. “And she was told to behave as if she had COVID-19, isolating herself from vulnerable household members.”

But by the time April 7 came, Quintero felt better and decided against getting the coronavirus test. Then she received a massive bill.

Quintero has an Anthem Blue Cross health insurance plan through her job which allows her a $3,500 annual deductible. According to People, “Corona Regional Medical Center billed Quintero $1,010, and Corona Regional Emergency Medical Associates billed an additional $830 for physician services. She also paid $50 at Walgreens to fill a prescription for an inhaler.”

For her medical care, Quintero assumed she would get the test but be able to avoid paying

After all, at the time, Congress had already passed the CARES Act which at a glance said coronavirus testing would be free. A closer look at its loopholes shows however that those who needed or wanted a coronavirus test early in the pandemic would be treated differently.

“I just didn’t think it was fair because I went in there to get tested,” Quintero explained.

While some insurance companies have chosen to voluntarily wave or reduce copayments for COVID-related emergency room visits, Quintero says her insurer refused.

“Anthem would not discuss the case until Quintero signed its own privacy waiver; it would not accept a signed standard waiver KHN uses,” People reported. “The hospital would not discuss the bill with a reporter unless Quintero could also be on the phone, something that has yet to be arranged around Quintero’s workday, which begins at 4 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m.”

Despite returning to work, Quintero’s insurance company and the hospital that treated her have refused to wave the charges sent to her. Her “payment reminders” turned to “final notices” and as such “she reluctantly agreed to pay $100 a month toward her balance — $50 to the hospital and $50 to the doctors.”

“None of them wanted to work with me,” Quintero explained. “I just have to give the first payment on each bill so they wouldn’t send me to collections.”

The lesson? Even in these hard times, heroes are not being given breaks. Take caution if your physician urges you to go to the emergency room for a COVID test. After all, any additional care you get there could come with a big price tag.

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Twitter’s AIs Prefer Ted Cruz With Boobs And White Skin Over Black

Things That Matter

Twitter’s AIs Prefer Ted Cruz With Boobs And White Skin Over Black

Ever notice how on some social platforms like Twitter or Instagram that you yourself are mysteriously unable to crop your display images on your own? That’s because Twitter prefers to let their algorithms make the decision. Over the weekend users on Twitter discovered the surprising dangers of letting algorithms crop your own images.

Education tech researcher Colin Madland drew attention to the issue while speaking out about how the video-calling program Zoom, often crops the head out of his black person coworker while on calls.

It didn’t take long for Madland and other users to discover that Twitter’s AIs use discriminatory equations to prioritize certain faces as well. In short, the social platform’s AIs prefer white faces over Black ones.

In response to the discoveries, a Twitter spokesperson acknowledged that the company was looking into the issue “Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing. But it’s clear from these examples that we’ve got more analysis to do. We’re looking into this and will continue to share what we learn and what actions we take,” they stated.

Of course, Madland’s discovery is nothing new. In 2019, test results from the National Institute of Standards and Technology revealed that some of the strongest algorithms online were much more likely to confuse the faces of Black women than those of white women, or Black or white men. “The NIST test challenged algorithms to verify that two photos showed the same face, similar to how a border agent would check passports,” Wired points out. “At sensitivity settings where Idemia’s algorithms falsely matched different white women’s faces at a rate of one in 10,000, it falsely matched black women’s faces about once in 1,000—10 times more frequently. A one in 10,000 false match rate is often used to evaluate facial recognition systems.”

Still, it didn’t take long for users on the platform to ask what other physical preferences Twitter has.

Turns out the AIs prefer Ted Cruz with large anime breasts over a normal-looking Ted Cruz.

(To better understand this Tweet, click the link above)

The user who tested the image of Cruz, found that Twitter’s algorithm on the back end selected what part of the picture it would showcase in the preview and ultimately chose both images of Cruz with a large anime chest.

It’s nothing new that Twitter has its massive problems.

For a platform that so controls and oversees so much of what we consume and how we now operate, it’s scary to know how Twitter chooses to display people with different skin tones. The round of jokes and Twitter experiments by users has only revived concerns on how “learning” computer algorithms fuel real-world biases like racism and sexism.

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Peru’s President Survives Impeachment Over Handling Of Coronavirus But What Happens Next?

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Peru’s President Survives Impeachment Over Handling Of Coronavirus But What Happens Next?

Chris Bouroncle / Getty Images

Earlier this month, Peru’s Congress moved to initiate impeachment proceedings against the country’s president over his alleged involvement with a singer involved in a fraud case. However, Peru’s struggle to contain the Coroanvirus outbreak also became a focal point of the impeachment proceedings.

Although, President Martín Vizcarra survived the impeachment vote this week, his country is still spiraling out of control in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic. Peru now has one of the world’s highest mortality rates, made worse by political strife and Peruvians are wondering where the country goes next amid all the turmoil.

Peru’s President survived his impeachment trial but he still faces serious hurdles in the road ahead.

What started out as an alleged fraud and corruption case, devolved into a sort of referendum on Vizcarra’s handling of the country’s failed Coronavirus response. The Coronavirus tragedy has fueled political insurrection. On Sept. 18, an opportunistic legislature tried to oust the president, who has been dogged by accusations of misusing public funds and then covering up the scandal.

However, the revolt fell flat. Just 32 lawmakers voted to remove Vizcarra, glaringly short of the 87-vote impeachment threshold, which is a good thing. Regime change on top of a public health hecatomb might have pushed the afflicted nation that much closer to collapse.

The decision came after long hours of debate in which legislators blasted Vizcarra but also questioned whether a rushed impeachment process would only create more turmoil in the middle of a health and economic crisis.

“It’s not the moment to proceed with an impeachment which would add even more problems to the tragedy we are living,” lawmaker Francisco Sagasti said.

The original impeachment case stemmed from his alleged involvement with a singer who faced serious charges of fraud.

President Vizcarra faced the challenge to his leadership after the Congress approved a motion to start impeachment proceedings against him over leaked audio tapes and alleged ties to a singer involved in a fraud case.

Lawmakers in Peru’s Congress, a mosaic of parties from the left and right with no overall majority, heard recordings of two private conversations between Vizcarra and government officials about meetings with Richard Cisneros, a little-known singer.

Vizcarra told reporters that the new challenge represented “a plot to destabilise the government.” “I am not going to resign,” he said. “I have a commitment to Peru and I will fulfill it until the last day of my mandate.”

Presidential elections are due to be held next year and Vizcarra has already said he will not run again.

But given Peru’s failed Covid-19 response, the president also faces serious doubts in his abilities to bring the country back from the brink.

Latin America has been devastated by the pandemic and it’s only been exacerbated by the total obliteration of growing wealth across the region – as millions are left out of work. The pandemic has largely undone decades of hard work that helped pull millions of Latin Americans out of poverty.

And Peru once the showpiece of Latin American economies — growing at a pacesetting 6.1% a year between 2002 and 2013 and lifting 6.4 million out of poverty — the country saw gross domestic product fall 30% in the second quarter, and is likely to finish the year aound 17% poorer before rebounding next year, according to Bloomberg Economics. Despite generous aid to the poor and strict social distancing rules that drew international praise, the Andean country has been burdened by the pandemic with one of the world’s highest mortality rates.

The possibility of a president being impeached amid the pandemic, had many in the U.S. wondering if we could do the same.

In the U.S., Donald Trump has left much of the country to fend for itself as the pandemic ravages state after state. There has been little in the way of a national plan for how to overcome the outbreak. In fact, many lies about the virus, treatment, and contagion have come directly from the president himself.

He’s even instructed the CDC to stop sharing pandemic-related information with the public, and instead to send all data directly to the White House.

Donald Trump and his administration have sowed division and false information that has resulted in the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans and months of on and off again quarantine orders that seem to have no end in sight. With policies like this, it’s no surprise that some are seriously considering a second impeachment trial.

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